Celebrating Community in Quarantine

Posted on Wednesday, June 3, 2020 by Melissa Howison

Eager to shake off the cloudiness of quarantine days and determined to reconnect with a sense of normalcy, Kathleen Overman planned a Porch Prom to give everyone in her neighborhood something to look forward to. 

On May 2, Abell residents zipped up their prom dresses, buttoned their vests, and in one case fastened their toga, to party together from a safe social distance on their DIY-decorated porches and in the street.  

It achieved everything Kathleen had hoped for. She was moved to tears the next day when people told her that just seeing so many smiles had helped heal their mental health. 

“I think what it ended up doing is really just resetting, reminding us that just because we lost the life that we lived before the pandemic doesn’t mean that we’re not going to build a life worth living after. There are new ways of connecting and being affectionate and sharing joy,” Kathleen said. 

A few weeks earlier, Kathleen had been enjoying her neighbors’ nightly porch concert (in the same stretchy pants she’d worn the day before) when she thought “what better time of year to dress up and wave to your neighbors from afar than the months of May and the Spring when people are usually celebrating their own proms?” She immediately reached out to some friends and the Abell Improvement Association for support. 

 “The intention was really no matter your age, we wanted everyone to have an excuse to come outside, and say hello, and feel pretty, and know that they are loved,” Kathleen said. 

For Drew, that meant adopting a millennia-old fashion standard. “He brought so many smiles by coming out on the avenue wearing a toga,” Kathleen said. “He decided it was going to be a very vintage Roman-Grecian Prom.” Drew’s entertaining tactics and helpfulness (he hauled his home speakers outside when an unexpected music dilemma arose) earned him the Prom King crown. 

The high court also elected Judith as Prom Queen for her generosity while taking care of her family and neighbors throughout the pandemic. 

To add to the glamour of the evening, Kathleen called in Sentimental Fools, who supplied balloons, and Peabody Heights Brewery, who produced a glitter beer just for the occasion. She encourages anyone planning a social distance event to try sourcing from local businesses in the spirit of community. 

Inspired by Porch Prom and its afterglow, Kathleen is currently helping to coordinate socially distant summer events. “To see so many people enthusiastic about just saying hello or doing their garden has been doing amazing things for the neighborhood,” she said. 

Plus, she’s already got big plans for next year’s Porch Prom! What started as a simple idea to lift people’s spirits during a pandemic transformed into the inaugural event of a beloved annual tradition.